An innovation economy is as much a psychology as it is the physical outputs of new companies.
I have too narrow a window of experience in Cleveland civic efforts to say that the collaboration we are seeing around #Blockland is unprecedented. With that being said, many seasoned and battled-tested members of the original working groups are saying just that. I find this to be extremely encouraging.
We all have people close to us who are the typical Cleveland nay-sayers, people who look at any major new initiatives and surmise that we are bound to screw it up simply because that’s what we do. Over the last two weeks I’ve seen glimmers of a changing psychology. Two close acquaintances, both of whom I think would fall into the “nay-sayer” persona, came to me independently and said, “tell me more about this #Blockland you keep talking about”. Their questions were curious and thoughtful and more importantly, hopeful. This was an eye opener for me – this effort is as much a journey to change our own perception of ourselves as it is to build the next 100 years of our economy.
The fact is, you can’t do the latter without the former; they are linked, inseparable. As inseparable as the Drive and the Fumble or the County Corruption probe or the burning river. These things are carried like a red badge of courage around here, but they shouldn’t be – it’s OK to put them down and root for a new and better future. In fact, it’s time. People who move here from outside N.E.O rave about Cleveland – I’m one of them. It’s time for Clevelanders – the real ones, the grinders, the ones in the Dog Pound, the people that never left and never will, to realize what we transplants do – all the raw materials are here and ready, but we have to move fast. Uncomfortably fast, in fact.
People are silently craving things like Blockland to go right, not wrong. They want it to work, they are just still too nervous to change their same ole tune. (You can learn more about Blockland’s progress at the following event: https://www.facebook.com/events/687411014984704/)
Now more than ever is the time to start reading, researching, asking questions and getting curious about how to make this go right. #Blockland, like a blockchain is a decentralized effort. It isn’t run by a shadowy political leader, but rather a collective of people who want things to finally go right for our economy.
In order to create a critical mass, however, the message needs to get beyond the core people in the innovation and startup communities – it needs to get the attention of beauticians and pharmacists and steel workers and plumbers. People need to know that there is a groundswell starting to form to make things better.
The beauty of adopting an innovation mindset and attitude are not the things that we can immediately imagine, but the things we can’t even comprehend that will come out of the brain of a middle schooler who was raised in Cleveland, a city that has an innovation mindset. It takes a leap of faith because it isn’t as tangible as manufacturing steel or a car part, but it can create massive disruption and opportunity and quite frankly our economy needs the disruption badly – we are falling behind.
So Cleveland, I urge you to read, research, ask questions and get involved. Most importantly I encourage you to reserve the default negativity and choose to be open to the disruption. If it works, you may walk around downtown and say “I can’t believe how much this place has changed in just a few years”. This effort is happening right out in the open, you just have to want to see it.